IMSA Oral Histories is an ongoing project, funded in part by a grant from the Hansen-Furnas Foundation. The project team included Jean Bigger (IMSA IRC), Dr. Sara Goek (class of 2006), Marti Guarin (IMSA librarian and archivist, 1986-2006), and Dr. Christian Nøkkentved (faculty emeritus, 1989-2013).
Reaching Out: Expanding the Presence of IMSA's Archives Final Report
- Please fill out this Form if you are interested in participating. Your contact information will only be used by Archives for this project.
- For more information: IMSA Oral Histories: Information Sheet for Interviewees
Emily Mellott '91 and Sara Goek
Emily Mellott grew up in Chicago and heard about IMSA through the State Talent Search. On a tour with her family she decided it was a place she wanted to be. She recalls that the letter about her acceptance to the class of 1991 also noted that IMSA may not have the funds to stay open.
Mellott had previously attended a magnet school in Chicago and arriving at IMSA she appreciated that she now ... Read More
Dr. David Workman taught in the science department at IMSA for 21 years. He had previously taught at George Williams College in Downers Grove, until it closed. He interviewed for a job at IMSA and was one of the first faculty members to be hired in 1986. He describes the process as both an “adventure” and “an act of faith,” because at the time he was interviewed, not much was yet in place. Once ... Read More
David Workman and Sara Goek
This is the second part of the oral history recorded with Dr. David Workman, IMSA faculty emeritus. He starts by describing his approach to teaching Modern Physics. He designed the curriculum to show how ideas in physics developed over time. Another new course, Methods of Scientific Inquiry (MSI), emerged from a need to prepare students to do scientific research earlier in their time at IMSA. The curriculum incorporated basic research principles and skills, as ... Read More
Andrew Adams '16 and Sara Goek
Andrew Adams, class of 2016, chose to attend IMSA because he wanted a new adventure, as well as to further his interests in math and science. He comes from Champaign, where he was bored in school, even in advanced classes. While first impressions of the IMSA building didn’t quite live up to his imagined vision, Adams felt he adjusted to the whole experience without any trouble and soon felt at home.
As a sophomore, ... Read More
Benjamin Cooper '16 and Sara Goek
Benjamin Cooper, class of 2016, first visited IMSA as a freshman in high school and was attracted by the unique setup of the school and the demo classes he participated in. He came knowing he was interested in math and he liked his math classes, but he also appreciated the opportunity to take a range of subjects with excellent teachers. Outside of classes he participated in two internships through the Talent program. The first ... Read More
Ernesto Cruz '97 and Sara Goek '06
Ernesto Cruz, class of 1997, grew up in Hoffman Estates. He remembers seeing an IMSA flyer in his high school English classroom. He went to an informational session about admissions and thought it sounded like it would be a good fit because there would be other more academically-engaged students.
Cruz describes the uniqueness of the IMSA residential life experience and the long-lasting friendships that resulted. He and his wingmates and friends got up to ... Read More
Sara Goeking '92 and Sara Goek
Sara Goeking, class of 1992, comes from Mt. Morris, a small rural community. She heard about IMSA from her older brother, who was one year too old to be part of the charter class, and she knew she wanted to apply. Her guidance counselor was discouraging, but her parents supported her. In her application, she remembers writing about wanting to be challenged and to learn among other smart, motivated students.
Starting at IMSA, Goeking ... Read More
This interview is with an alumnus who graduated in the late 1990s and prefers to remain anonymous. He grew up in in a Chicago suburb. While it had a good school system, during his freshman year his parents were considering moving and IMSA’s residential and academic nature appealed to him. He recalls the admissions process, from taking the SAT, to getting recommendation letters, doing an interview, and ending up on the wait list.
On ... Read More
Michael Hancock '89 and Sara Goek
Dr. Michael Hancock is a member of the charter class who returned to IMSA as faculty in the English department. Initially, he came to IMSA looking for a more challenging academic experience than what his home school could offer. Upon arrival he recalls being more homesick than he had anticipated. As part of the charter class, he also had the experience of living in the main building until the residence halls were completed. He ... Read More
Charlotte (Whittaker) Kellim '08 and Sara Goek
Charlotte (Whittaker) Kellim, class of 2008, first heard about IMSA when she was in elementary school and the idea immediately appealed to her. After her family moved and she had to change schools in eighth grade, she knew she wanted the chance IMSA offered to start fresh with other like-minded students.
When she arrived, she appreciated the sense of community IMSA offered. During orientation, she remembers that she had just learned how to knit ... Read More
Rowan Lockwood '89 and Sara Goek
Rowan Lockwood comes from Rockford and had encountered a lot of problems at her local high school, so she jumped at the opportunity to join IMSA's charter class. When she arrived in the fall of 1986 she found a "work in progress." She lived with 30 girls in a bunk room that had been a home economics classroom and stored her clothes in the oven. The environment fostered close friendships and once the students ... Read More
Glenn W. "Max" McGee and Sara Goek
Dr. Max McGee served as IMSA’s president from 2007 to 2013. He first learned about IMSA when he was state superintendent of Illinois public schools from 1998 to 2001. While superintendent of the Wilmette School District he was asked to participate in IMSA’s strategic planning process in 2006-07. The mission statement struck a chord for him and when Dr. Stephanie Pace Marshall decided to step down as IMSA’s president, he jumped at the opportunity ... Read More
Patrick McWilliams and Sara Goek
Patrick McWilliams was a member of the English faculty at IMSA between 1987 and 1998. He had previously taught at private schools. Having spent a year on a Klingenstein fellowship at Columbia University in New York City, he returned home to New Orleans and decided to look for other opportunities. He saw the job advertised at IMSA and applied.
When McWilliams started in 1987, IMSA was in its second year and in the process ... Read More
Dave Sahota '99 and Sara Goek
Dave Sahota, class of 1999, grew up in Ottawa and didn’t feel like the school there offered enough opportunities or challenges. IMSA seemed like an obvious choice to expand learning opportunities and find other like-minded students.
In eighth grade Sahota visited IMSA on a field-trip and was excited by the labs and the students he saw. On arrival sophomore year, fall 1996, he recalls immediately being thrown into new experiences. He played soccer and ... Read More
Clay Sewell and Sara Goek
Clay Sewell taught art at IMSA from 1990 to 2015. He had previously taught at West Aurora High School, where one of his students was the son of IMSA's HR director, Connie Jo Hatcher. He heard about the opening for the art teaching position both from that student and the teacher who was leaving, both of whom recommended he apply. After his interview for the position, he didn't think he'd get the job, but ... Read More
Anthony Stuckey '89 and Sara Goek
Anthony Stuckey is a member of the charter class and current Network Engineer for IMSA's Information Technology Systems (ITS). He came to IMSA looking for a better and more academically challenging experience than his home school offered. He and his classmates lived in the main building at first, 24 students to a room, and they moved into the dorms in the spring of their first year. Stuckey felt unprepared for the rigor of the ... Read More
Erica (Thomas) Switzer '00 and Sara Goek
Erica (Thomas) Switzer, class of 2000, grew up in Maywood, in Cook County. She did very well in school growing up, went into an accelerated learning program, and still wanted more of a challenge. An IMSA recruiter visited her school and she immediately did everything she could to attend.
Switzer met her best friend the summer before starting at IMSA and they became roommates. Despite not always getting along in the first year, they ... Read More
Cathy Veal and Sara Goek
Cathy Veal started her career at IMSA as Dean of Student Services. She arrived in August 1986, a month before the first students, having come from the North Carolina School of Science and Math. At the time, she describes the environment as having a start-up feel, with energy and enthusiasm. The faculty and staff had to plan a curriculum, draft a student handbook and processes for dealing with potential emergencies, and figure out how ... Read More
Jason Wiley '99 and Sara Goek
Jason Wiley, class of 1999, came to IMSA from Chicago in large part because of his mother. She saw an article about IMSA in the paper when he was in second grade. As a freshman in high school IMSA appealed to him because he didn't feel academically challenged. He participated in the Excel summer program, where he made a lot of close friends, including one who would be his roommate for all three years.... Read More
Christian Nokkentved and Sara Goek
Dr. Christian Nøkkentved - known to generations of IMSA students as Dr. Nok - started as a member of the history faculty 1988. He had finished his Ph.D. in History in 1985 at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He visited IMSA and decided to apply for a job, attracted by the small class sizes and teaching he saw there. He had to learn to adapt to teaching in a more hands-on way and ... Read More
Robert Hernandez and Christian Nøkkentved
Dr. Robert Hernandez started his career at IMSA in Admissions. In February 1995 he got a call about a one-year position that had opened up for a coordinator of recruitment and retention for minority students. He came out to visit IMSA, liked what he saw, and was offered the position. He started in April 1995 and stayed for 25 years.
In Admissions, he spent the first three years traveling around the state to recruit ... Read More
Claiborne Skinner and Christian Nøkkentved
Dr. Claiborne Skinner came to IMSA as a member of the history faculty in 1993. In preparation for his first classes, he says he wanted to make an impression, so he came up with activities, including historical re-enactments. A lesson on the American Revolutionary War involved two-dozen broom handles to serve as rifles for patriots and redcoats, while teaching democracy in Ancient Greece involved rowing across No Pond. At the time at least, Dr. ... Read More
José Torres and Christian Nøkkentved
Dr. Christian Nøkkentved interviews IMSA President, Dr. José Torres. He previously served as Superintendent for School District U-46 in Elgin and it was during his time there that he first learned about IMSA. He started looking at the opportunity to be President when it opened and was struck by the mission statement, the Standards of Significant Learning (SSLs), and the alumni. He thought it sounded like a good place with a good mission. He ... Read More
David Kinney '95, Amy Timm Kinney '95, Ravi Duvvuri '95, and Christian Nøkkentved
Three members of the class of 1995 look back on their IMSA experiences twenty years after they graduated. David Kinney says he applied to IMSA because he wanted to get out of the house. Amy (Timm) Kinney had grown up in the Chicago area before her family moved to southern Illinois, where she didn't feel she fit in and she wasn't challenged enough academically. Ravi Duvvuri grew up in central Illinois and likewise didn't ... Read More
Branson Lawrence and Christian Nøkkentved
Dr. Christian Nøkkentved interviews Branson Lawrence, former science faculty and principal, about his IMSA experience. He begins by discussing how he first came to teach at IMSA. He was a public school science teacher and started teaching at a IMSA's summer programs in 1989. When it was first suggested he apply for a faculty position, he was unenthusiastic, but with encouragement he came around, accepted a job offer, and started in the fall of ... Read More